Conference USA announced Friday that it will add Liberty, Jacksonville State, New Mexico State and Sam Houston State on July 1, 2023, as the league tries to replenish its ranks after having nine schools announce plans to leave in the past month.
The Conference USA overhaul might not be done. Mid-American Conference presidents were meeting Friday with possible expansion on the agenda and Conference USA members Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State as potential options, a person familiar with the situation told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because the league discussions are private.
Including Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State, Conference USA has only five members that have not announced plans to leave in the next few years. The NCAA requires FBS leagues to have at least eight teams.
All of these conference realignment moves are a trickle down from what started in July with the SEC inviting Texas and Oklahoma to leave the Big 12 and join the powerhouse league by 2025.
The Big 12 responded by adding four schools, three from the American Athletic Conference, which led the American to poach six schools from Conference USA.
Conference USA has also lost three members to the Sun Belt in recent weeks. The last piece of the Sun Belt's plan to expand to 14 football members should be in place soon. James Madison, a perennial FCS championship contender, was given approval by the state of Virginia on Friday to move up to FBS, where the Sun Belt competes.
James Madison is expected to announce that it will join the Sun Belt at a news conference Saturday morning.
All the Sun Belt's new schools are expected to join by 2023.
The newest Conference USA schools will keep the league far-flung, from New Mexico to Virginia.
Liberty and Jacksonville State are members of the ASUN Conference for most sports, although Liberty is an FBS independent and Jacksonville State has been a successful FCS program.
New Mexico State is also an FBS independent and is a member of the Western Athletic Conference for basketball and other sports. Sam Houston State, which is coming off an FCS national championship, is part of the newly restarted WAC football league, which is competing in the FCS this year.
"We are incredibly excited about adding these four new members and feel there is tremendous upside in these moves for our conference," Conference USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement. "This is a quality mix of established and emerging universities that provides us with a compelling group to continue to build with, focusing on competing for and winning championships well into the future. We have been deliberate in our efforts for the past few weeks to get us to this point and will continue to evaluate and consider our additional options for membership."